Obama, world leaders want Syria violence to end now

13th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama joined key British and Saudi allies Saturday in demanding that the Syrian regime "immediately" halt its brutal crackdown on protesters.

During a telephone conversation, Obama and Saudi King Abdullah expressed their "shared, deep concerns about the Syrian government's use of violence against its citizens," the White House said in a statement.

"They agreed that the Syrian regime's brutal campaign of violence against the Syrian people must end immediately."

The call came after Saudi Arabia, which had remained silent on the five-month revolt, added the Sunni Muslim regional heavyweight's voice to a chorus of criticism against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and recalled its ambassador from Damascus.

Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit this week, while the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League condemned the violence that has left more than 2,150 people dead, including more than 400 members of the security forces, according to rights activists.

Turkey, which shares a border with Syria and has a large Sunni population, has also expressed growing impatience with Assad's scorched earth policy, as has Russia.

Washington has steadily ratcheted up the pressure on Damascus, imposing new sanctions and saying Assad has lost all legitimacy, but the US government has so far stopped short of openly calling for Assad to step down.

In a separate phone call, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron also agreed on the need for an "immediate" end to the bloodshed.

They reiterated "their deep concern about the Syrian government's use of violence against civilians and their belief that the Syrian people's legitimate demands for a transition to democracy should be met."

Obama vowed to remain in close contact with the British and Saudi leaders over developments in Syria, where Assad's security forces have engaged in a weeks-long campaign of violence, using automatic gunfire on civilians protesting against the regime.

Soldiers and police have been trying to crush dissent city by city and town by town since pro-democracy protests erupted into a full-scale uprising in mid-March.

Rights activists say the latest casualties included at least three people killed as Syrian troops pounded Latakia and raided other towns.

Military vehicles, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers, converged on Ramleh during a "large demonstration calling for the fall of Assad's regime," according to the watchdog. It said the troop deployment triggered an exodus of residents, especially women and children.

An activist in the Homs region of central Syria said troops backed by two tanks also entered the village of Jussiyeh which borders Lebanon, triggering a stampede across the frontier and to neighbouring areas.

Military vehicles, meanwhile, swooped on the town of Qusayr, also in Homs province, where security and intelligence services carried out arrests and killed one person, the Observatory said.

At least 20 people were killed Friday when security forces opened fire on thousands of protesters who rallied in flashpoint cities after weekly Muslim prayers.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu meanwhile urged Syrian leaders to "exercise utmost restraint through immediate cessation of the use of force to suppress people's demonstrations," an OIC statement said.

The UN Security Council is due to hold a special meeting next Thursday to discuss human rights and the humanitarian emergency in Syria.

© 2011 AFP

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